1893: An Ahtanum pom-pom (púmpum)

Something you often used to see in Washington state newspapers was reportage about “Chinook dances” .

Here’s a fine example.

Family: Chief Thomas Yallup visiting his son the tank driver (Image credit: Reddit)

These were late-winter gatherings by Native people, to pray for the return of warm weather, i.e. the Chinook wind.

Here’s one such from 130 years ago, about some of the Yakama Nation’s people conducting this ceremony:


The Indians of the Ahtanum have been indulging in a pom-pom or tomanimus dance during the past week to propitiate the good spirit into sending a chinook [wind]. The Indians have lost a great number of cayuses on account of the long and severe winter, and they are getting afraid that they will have none left. The pom-pom has been held at Yallup’s place, and for four days and nights the dancing was carried on with little intermission. Yallup furnished three beeves to feed those taking part in the incantations, and it is said he offered to spend $500 in a grand blow-out if a success was made in raising the (warm) wind, which has not as yet put in an appearance.

— from the Yakima (WA) Herald of March 16, 1893, page 3, column 1

It’s quite nice to see this word “pom-pom” documented in print. This is a widespread word for ‘drum(s)’ and ‘drumming’ in Indigenous languages of the middle Columbia River area. It exists as Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa púmpum as well. Compare Umatilla Sahaptin pampam[-]ɬá ‘drummer’, said to come from Chinook Jargon, and Spokane Salish pumpumpum ‘sound of war-dance drum’ and pum-ín-tn ‘a drum’.

The word tomanimus in the article is CW as well, t’əmánəwas ‘spirit power’. This pronunciation with the “W” changed to an “M” is typical of the Puget Sound region, with which the Yakamas inland have long had strong ties.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
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